Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations      HubGarden      Recipes
1 million Australian readers every month      list your event

The Art in Adelaide's Tunnels

Home > Adelaide > Long Weekend | Fun Things To Do | Free | Easter | Art
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published August 15th 2013
A Dali free zone
The Art in Adelaide's Tunnels

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, devil
The Devil Made Me Do It


As Adelaide's rivers and creeks meander from the hills down to the sea, they undergo a transformation along the way. Starting life as a clear bubbling stream flowing over mossy rocks in a natural green setting, as it reaches the urban areas a creek will often be channelled into concrete culverts and channels. While in the metropolitan area it picks up rubbish and silt before frequently disappearing into underground stormwater tunnels to reach the sea.

These tunnels often have an attraction for the urban explorer, and become a magnet for people interested in street art and graffiti. The entrance to one popular place (I will call it the Northern Art Tunnel) can be found in a suburban park near Adelaide.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, pedestrian
Art in a Pedestrian Tunnel


Of course the northern suburbs are not the only place art can be found in a tunnel. Earlier this year Artsake Productions in conjunction with Fascination Street held an art exhibition in historic tunnels long hidden under the old Treasury building in Adelaide.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, squats
A Building Squats Over a Drain


Even south of Adelaide it is not hard to find a tunnel filled with work from an eclectic mix of graffiti artists. Sometimes the tunnels are not fully covered over by concrete, rather by overhanging trees or bamboo plants - even buildings occasionally squat across the waterways.

If you decide to explore any of these (and I'm not suggesting that you do), then BE SAFE. Clearly the middle of winter is a bad time to be entering a stormwater drain, when a sudden shower of rain can change water levels and speed dramatically!

Other precautions to take include wearing non slip soled shoes, carrying a torch and mobile phone, and ideally explore with someone else.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, walking
Walking Upright is Not Possible in Some Tunnels


Having said that, let's take a closer look at what Adelaide tunnels have to offer for people who appreciate art.

Northern Art Tunnel

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, northern
Entering the Northern Art Tunnel


This tunnel is probably the best known in Adelaide, and boasts an impressive collection of street art.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, drain lyfe
Welcome to Drain Lyfe


A children's playground and picnic area lie a minute's walk away. But at odd times of the day, young people walk from their cars and disappear in this little park.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, safe
Is it Safe?


It took me a while to be curious enough to watch where they went, and on seeing them enter the tunnel I wondered whether people went there to take drugs.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, personal
A Very Personal Message


One day after a guy had returned to his car, I went down to take a look. I walked quite a way, and the walls were thick with graffiti the whole length.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, layers
Layers of Art


In some places art blends colourfully in harmony with nature.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, harmony
A Harmony of Colour


While many works are messages in stylised script, not all are.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, chicken
Goat's Chicken


It seems that an artist who has earned respect is not drawn over, such as this painting from 2010.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, 2010
USN - "Unstoppable Nature


The artists even (largely) clean up after themselves - I found one sack hanging to collect rubbish.



At some places in the tunnel it seemed that the art was a work in progress.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, work in progress
Work in Progress


I thought the graffiti standard was high, and enjoyed walking the tunnel gallery.



I finally reached the end of the line for me. I had no torch to see my way - but the art went on!

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, end of the line
The End of the Line for Me


The Tunnels Exhibition

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, treasury tunnels
The Entrance to the Treasury Tunnels


The old Adelaide Treasury building houses other well known tunnels, although they are now thought to be linked basements rather than actual tunnels. Now re-purposed as the Adina Apartment Hotel, occasional open days are held where people can view the tunnels.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, DIY
What's the Use of Art - DIY


The Tunnels Exhibition was a popular art exhibition held in the Treasury tunnels during May 2013, showcasing work by emerging artists.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, fascination street
The Tunnels Exhibition - Designed & Constructed by Fascination Street


Visitors were able to freely explore the tunnels and see them transformed into an innovative underground gallery space.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, humility
Humility 3 by Christopher Arblaster


The unearthly atmosphere in the Treasury tunnels was enhanced and complemented by the exhibition.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, oscar wilde
All Art is Quite Useless - Oscar Wilde


Decorations in the Treasury tunnels helped create an unusual ambience.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, plant art
Plant Art?


The Treasury tunnels were so successful as an art venue they will be host to high-tech storytelling at next year's Adelaide Fringe too. For more information, click here.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, the tunnels
More from The Tunnels Exhibition


Southern Drains

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, rocky
The Start - A Rocky Creek Bed


South of Adelaide is a hidden network of drains that has attracted much graffiti and tagging from local street artists. I stumbled across these tunnels while doing some urban exploration near a disused Scout hall.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, vegetation
Vegetation is Reclaiming the Drain in Places


Access to the drains is easily accessible from a popular local park and skate facility, but camouflaged by foliage and undergrowth. The drains start as a rocky open area, then the walls become progressively higher and at times are covered over by buildings or heavy plant growth.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, dirty
Dirty Drunx


I soon found that people come here from all over Adelaide, after I chatted to an artist from the Western suburbs as he discreetly made his way into the drain.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, urbex
Drain Urbex


Some of the buildings bordering the drain are rather weird - a mish-mash of construction materials and styles.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, bamboo
Bamboo Screens the Drains from Adjacent Properties


In other places the drain is invisible - screened from neighbouring properties. Perhaps one reason it is well patronised.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, colourful
Colourful


The artwork here is every bit as colourful as in the Northern Art Tunnel, and some is clearly created by the same people.

art, artist, artists, graffiti, tunnels, tunnel, adelaide, explorer, exploring, the end
The End of The Line


It's not known how much new legislation will impact on graffiti artists - penalties have been toughened significantly. But for locations such as these, street art causes no impact or offence to others.

It's a secret playground for many young people in Adelaide, and I hope it survives.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  130
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Get out and see the world
When: Anytime - if it's not raining!
Where: All around Adelaide
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Were these graffiti artists commissioned to do this, or did they just decide to paint the walls without permission. For me that makes the difference between art and vandalism.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11560) 1581 days ago
I'm a photographer and would really love to know what park the northern art tunnel is connected to? Please email me
by Elcde (score: 1|15) 1491 days ago
Don't think I'll be wandering any tunnels, so found your article and photos interesting. Certainly brightens up the drains!
by Hayley (score: 3|1016) 1581 days ago
Do you wear a mask in the drains? Here in Melbourne the drain urbex thing has become really popular, but I'm still too scared to do it. Looks heaps fun, but I think I'll stick with abandos.
by Mallory (score: 2|474) 1262 days ago
Good article, but that "usin" is actually USN, which stands for the graffiti crew unstoppable nature. Also, "work in progress" is actually finished, it's even one of the oldest and most respected pieces in that drain.
by maxba (score: 0|5) 1207 days ago
@bryony. So if person A gets permission and person B does not and they do the same thing we have now defined person B as a troublemaker even though they caused no trouble and the paint person B used "wrecks public property" whereas the paint person A used does not, even though it is the same paint? This is not strong argument, to put it mildly. These are hidden drains, not visible buildings.
by Nigel (score: 0|5) 1580 days ago
Articles from other cities
Featured
Foodi Photoh Classie
Top Events
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists
Questions